When San Diego County workers involved in patient care refuse to get flu vaccinations, their only option is to wear a white surgical mask — from the time they clock into the hospital to the time they leave — if they want to keep their jobs.

That’s the mandate from the county public health department issued last Nov. 4. It applies to workers in “all licensed acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, ambulatory and community clinics and ambulance providers.”

Many health professionals believe that wearing masks is more effective than not wearing them because they do contain viral particles that could spread from a cough or sneeze as far as 20 feet.

But evidence is sparse that even when worn correctly, masks prevent transmission of influenza from a healthcare worker to a patient, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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